As you head down from Taganskaya Metro to the Budweiser Budvar Restaurant at Kotelnicheskaya Embankment 33 you know you have arrived when you walk into what looks like a rustic farm courtyard. An old lady knitting a sweater watches over a menagerie of animals, all plaster models. The restaurant is to the left of the courtyard, where Audis, Land Cruisers and Lexus' jostle for parking space. It faces a wooden summer house where terrace dining is de rigueur in summer.
A rural, central European atmosphere prevails throughout, with waitresses in drindel skirts, puff-sleeved white blouses and red waistcoats all held together with a green belt. Bunches of dried grass and flowers dangle from the ceiling and metal and porcelain bells, straw dolls and the odd iron key hang from the paneled walls while a violin, assorted old-fashioned irons Ц the kind you put hot coals in Ц sit atop the beams.
The restaurant is named after the original Budweiser Czech beer, which it serves on tap along with Krusovice, Paulaner and Hoegarden, all for 374 rubles a litre (204r for 0.5l and 136r for 0.3l). The range of draught beers also includes Pilsener Urquall at 255 rubles a litre (155r Ц 0.5l, 105r Ц 0.3l).
The wine card looks like a newspaper and includes several beer cocktails including the lethal sounding Flamendrachek, consisting of lager, vodka, chili pepper and Tabasco. The list boasts many wines including an extensive selection of French, German and Alsace from 1190r to 3160r for a 1998 Pommard Bourgogne. There are smaller selections of Spanish, Italian, Chilean, Portuguese and Georgian wines.
We stuck with home brewed kvas and the Budweiser Budvar beer, while we pondered the extensive menu with an appetizer of chips, a dip consisting of butter, cheese, bacon and garlic and a clove of garlic, which we left untouched. There was enough garlic in the dip!
For starters I chose the fresh salad with salmon, avocado, squids fried with dill, baby shrimps and a red pepper dressing (408r). My companion had the sheep cheese in a crispy pastry crust with ripe tomatoes, rucola salad and pesto sauce (390r). Both the salads came in generous helpings and were both delicately flavoured.
For the main course I had the fresh veal tongue with mashed potatoes, with baked sweet pepper and red wine sauce with cherries (848r). The tongue was very lightly fried and bursting with flavour; the potatoes had just the right consistency while the bite-sized chopped vegetables were covered in a creamy sauce and were not over-cooked, as so often happens.
My companion opted for one of those dishes Russian love with meat and lashings of cooked fruit. He chose the duck breast with green apples, caramelized grapes, pear and banana in a black cherry sauce (626r). He loved it, proclaiming the contrast between the gamey duck with crispy skin and the sweet baked vegetables absolutely delicious.
The bill, without drinks, came to around $40 a head, so we slightly exceeded our target of $30 but not nearly as much as the gleaming autos parked outside had us fear.
An even more reasonably priced Czech Food Festival menu is running through the summer with top priced mixed grill for two at 848r.
Our next summer dining experience was well within budget, coming in at under the target $30 Ц for two! In the secluded garden at the back of Kitaisky Kvartal restaurant on Prospekt Mira (see listings) we had a relative feast of beautifully presented, well prepared and nourishing Chinese cuisine with a heavy dose of Uigur elements. The autonomous Uigurs, from the Xinjiang region in northwest China, are of Turkik origin. They have their own language and share borders with Tibet, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Kirghizstan, Uzbekistan, Tadzhikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Their cuisine reflects the arid desert which covers their land.
I had the tasty eggplant cheze, spicy cold appetizer of eggplant fried with tomatoes, onion and bell pepper, served with coriander (165r) while John had Peking style hot'n'sour soup (110r), served in a real porcelain bowl with a real porcelain spoon, unlike some other establishments who use plastic. The eggplant had that 'bite' while the soup really was spicy hot. We shared a main course of lamb shashlik (275r), Khoshan dumplings (stuffed with lamb and pumpkin (195r) and a bowl of steamed rice (40r). The lamb was tender, melt-in-your mouth quality; the dumplings had the right consistency of the dough and were substantially more substantial than the pelmeni we thought they would be related to.
We both felt well satisfied and enjoyed the authenticity of the cuisine in the peaceful atmosphere of the garden where ivy tumbles down the walls of the courtyard and canvas sails protect the diners from sudden showers.